Efficient fertilisers vital to agri-food chain

Reliance on grains will increase as the global population grows and people eat less meat. Efficient and effective fertilisers to optimise plant health and yield are essential to feed the world.

SUSFERT is pleased to release the January 2022 newsletter at a time when reducing food waste in the world is at the top of the agenda. Using crop resources to curb climate impacts is taking on a new urgency, especially to sustain the world’s growing population. An efficient and effective food chain is required to be able to achieve this.

Society needs to find innovative ways of using existing and new resources, including developing alternatives using waste streams for the agri-food chain. The food chain can be complicated and controversial, but as society works to reduce its intake of meat, the reliance on grains and other key crops will increase which makes fertiliser development an indispensable part of this chain.

Fertiliser development vital to food chain

Vital to crop production is the development and use of efficient and effective fertilisers that positively influence plant health and yield. At the same time, soil health needs to be maintained and improved by adding the right probiotics to set free nutrients for plant growth. More can be read about the essential work of micro-organisms in fertiliser development HERE.

Biobased, natural platicisers need to replace petrochemical polymers in existing fertiliser coatings that lead to soil micro-plastic pollution that causes many problems. Conditions such as algae blooms, and the build-up of plastic pollution in waterways and oceans require urgent attention. Watch the VIDEO on this.

Alternatives to rock phosphate for fertilisers

Alternatives to existing rock phosphate resources need to be developed, such as the recovery of struvite from wastewater sources like municipal sewerage, or from the wastewater of washing potatoes, for example. To find out more about the topic of struvite in the EU read the SUSFERT scientific paper HERE.

Increasingly important for climate mitigation is the need to buy and use products that have travelled less miles, and to reduce the amount of product processing that burns excessive amounts of energy which negatively impacts global CO2 emissions.

Essential to the less miles overall resource aim of SUSFERT, which will culminate in an LCA, is to reduce the EU’s reliance on imported, mined phosphate. This means developing new ways of creating bio-based fertilisers that are based on other sources of phosphate.

SUSFERT solutions

The SUSFERT fertilisers currently under development use waste products such as struvite for fertiliser production; probiotics and a fungal siderophore to increase nutrient availability; and lignosulfonate coatings from renewable materials for longer term nutrient release and soil improvement. The project’s solutions are ongoing and are being demonstrated in field trials across Europe. All of these topics are covered in the newsletter.

The project is now entering its final period where field trials will continue to be mainstay of SUSFERT bio-based fertiliser development. The field trials are taking place in staple crops in Europe, such as maize, tomatoes, oranges, kiwis, grapes, and later will include potatoes. Much of the work currently underway remains confidential for now, but we can share other results and news from last year, such as the successful grass trials, that explain the work of SUSFERT in greater detail.

Think before you fertilise or lay a plastic lawn!

As a closing wish, we urge people to think about how they apply fertilisers. It is important not to over-fertilise grass, whether it’s in the garden or in public areas, due to the unnecessary leaching of nutrients into the environment. Finally, we ask people not to use plastic lawns that suffocate the presence and vitality of life contained within the soil and environment.

Only then can we ensure that all life can thrive within the circularity concept. For the agri-food chain this means creating an effective and efficient food chain focused on zero waste, and a reduced dependence on non-renewables resources, like rock phosphate. Creating sustainable, biobased fertilisers is central to achieving these aims.

We invite you to sign-up to the SUSFERT newsletter HERE.

Enjoy reading!

Mikael Muegge

SUSFERT Project Manager, RTDS